Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Tompkins hawk fledgling catches a rat, thwarted by dog

Monday evening, we found the Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk fledgling taking a break from the extreme heat and humidity by sheltering in the shade of some leafy trees.

Despite the oppressive heat, the fledgling was alert and paying close attention to every pigeon and rodent in the area.

We watched it as it hunted for dinner, eventually swooping down on a large rat under a bush.

The rat seemed a bit too heavy for the hawk as it struggled to lift the prey off the ground.

The fledgling tried several times to take its meal to a safe spot to eat, but decided to start eating it on the ground, possibly to reduce the weight.

The hawk only had a chance to take a couple of bites before a person walked right up to it with their dog, forcing the hawk to fly off and abandon its meal. Dogs are an ever-present danger to the hawks, especially the fledgling who does not yet have all the skills necessary to safely manage on its own. 

This particular part of the park is fenced off because the hawks hunt in this area and the fledglings (year after year) use it to practice their flying and hunting skills. However, people keep breaking the locks on the gate and taking their dogs in there - when the hawks are present - despite a state-of-the-art dog run being just a few feet away.
In this instance, we waited for the dog owner at the gate, but seeing us, they took their dog through the bushes at the opposite end of the area and exited through a tear in the fence. Individual park-goers have tried repairing the fence, but dog owners keep vandalizing it. This is an issue that seems to only get worse and, as Tompkins Square is one of the most neglected parks in the city (minimal staff, maintenance, and security), the situation feels hopeless.

We waited around until after sunset to see if the fledgling would return to its food left on the ground, but there was a continuous parade of people with dogs, so the fledgling went hungry. Who knows if this was its only meal of the day?

Anyway, here are a few highlights from earlier in the summer. There will be more to come.

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